I was moving things around in my room the other day and came across a box of old photos. There was a young fresh Christopher and I with Gabe and a little Gracie. I got that goofy teary eyed smile as I thumbed through them. We were so young looking, our faces not yet touched by tragedy. The other thing that hit me like a lightening bolt through the heart, was how normal it looked to have Gabe in the pictures. There he was, just sitting enjoying the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I sat on the bed clutching the pictures to my chest. That was a beautiful memory.
From the time that I was a little girl I loved to watch the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I would save my Halloween Candy (well as much as I could. It was usually just suckers. My sister Mandy on the other hand horded all of her chocolate and chips because she had will power. I think that the thought of me looking lustfully at her hoard was what allowed her to save it) and snack on it while I watched the parade. Nana lived in town and had cable, so we would go down to her little apartment and watch it there. My Mom would reminisce about the parade when when she was a girl. She would ask Nana if she remembered Punkin Head (a big brown teddy). They would talk about the old floats. That would lead to stories about the windows in Toronto. It really was one of the highlights of my year. It was the highlight, but I always dreamed of the day when I would see the parade in person.
My first year at York, my best friend and I took the subway downtown to see the parade. You may recall my story about having a race up the down escalator... well I was on crutches to go to see the parade. We stood in front of our beloved Eatons Centre. The crowds were about 10 layers thick. Everyone was pushing and shoving. Street vendors were walking around selling red noses, and candy and other trinkets. There was excitement in the air. I by this point had long ceased to believe in the right jolly old elf, but I wanted that magic. It was so cold, my leg was throbbing, so we decided to head up to McDonald's and watch the rest of the parade at the window. I had fulfilled a childhood promise to my older self.
When I became a mother I decided that I would take my children to witness that magic. We took Gabe and Grace. We were lucky and found a not so busy spot. It turns out that the busiest spots are the ones near the camera crews. We bundled the kids up, and sat on the curb. I was more excited than the kids. I was so looking forward to witnessing that magical excitement through them. Gabe was so excited that he was almost vibrating. At one point we looked up to see friends of ours from Tweed. We had no idea that they were going to be there too. We gave each other that excited wave. The vendors came around selling their wares, two little kids eyed them greedily.
We each took a child and snuggled them in close to us, sharing warmth and excitement. The floats came by, Gabe gasped. On T.V. those floats look 200 feet high. They seem so huge. In reality, they are not that big, but maybe even more impressive. Our babies little hands nearly fell off with all of the waving. I sat there silent tears running down my face as I watched their little faces. This was the magic. I thought we would all explode when Santa made his way down in that big sled. We promised that we would come back.
True to our word, we took them back two years later. This time we went with our friends. We took camping chairs and blankets. We bundled the kids and wrapped them up tight in blankets. It was that cold that gets into your bones. We were freezing, and yet the kids did not seem to notice. They were too excited, now they knew why they were so excited. It was just so beautiful.
We took the Grace and Riley and Rowan a few years back. We went with Christopher's sister Shannon and our nephew Jacob. We had lost Gabe by then. Christmas had lost much of it's magic, well for Christopher and I. We knew that we could not rob the kids of the magic we had given so freely to Gabe. All of the kids were bouncing with excitement. It was a pleasure to see the kid's face's. It reminded me that there is still magic, even if that magic is just a little tarnished.
We have a tradition at our house (on the years that we don't venture into Toronto). My parents come over, and we order pizza. The kids bring down their left over Halloween candy. Mom and Dad bring bags of junk for the kids. We all sit around the T.V.. We comment on the floats, waiting for Santa. When Santa comes, we all shout "Hi Santa", and the kid's little hands wave so hard I am afraid that they will get carpal tunnel syndrome. I shout out things like "Don't come this year Santa, they've all been really bad". This is then frantically followed by "We've been good Santa. Mommy's just joking!" It is the beginning of our Christmas season. It kicks off the beginning of the magic.
Christopher and I had secretly planned to take the kids into Toronto this year. Elly is old enough now that she would really enjoy it. Strep throat destroyed that dream. We had visions of one of the two that has yet to catch it, to catch it while we are standing in the cold. I am glad that we didn't tell the kids. We will eat that pizza, eat that junk. We will kick off our Christmas season. On that note, I had better finish this off, because the parade is just about to start, and I can't miss a minute of it.